As anyone who’s spent time in Southeast Michigan knows, winter is a perfect time to strap on a pair of skates and head down to the nearest pond. Next time you lace ‘em up, one of the youngsters around you might just grow up to be an Olympian.
In the case of 26-year-old Evan Bates, that’s exactly what happened. An Ann Arbor native and University of Michigan graduate, Bates has grown up to become one of the world’s greatest ice-dancers, with a resume that includes, with partner Madison Chock, a 2015 U.S. Gold Medal, a 2015 World Silver Medal and a 2010 U.S. Bronze Medal. Together they competed in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, placing eighth.
Evan briefly interrupted his training in Novi to speak with us about his career, his partnership with Chock, and life here in Southeast Michigan.
Current: You got involved in ice dancing at the age of four. What sparked your interest?
Evan Bates: I got into figure skating because my older sister did it and since my mom was taking me to the rink to watch my sister, she eventually put me on the ice. I first started skating at Vets in Ann Arbor, before the Ann Arbor Ice Cube was built, then eventually switched over to the Cube.
Have you noticed the local competitive climate change, or become more specialized, since you were a kid? If so, in what way?
I agree athletes are becoming more specialized. I consider myself lucky to have found my niche at a young age. It allowed me to put my energy and focus into something that I was passionate about and now is my career.
Tell me a little about your day-to-day training routine.
We generally train between 5-6 hours a day, depending on the time of year. We usually spend about 4 hours a day on the ice, with an additional 1-2 hours off-ice, either working out in the gym, or taking ballet or dance class to supplement our on-ice training.
Do you have your routines planned out well ahead of time, or are you constantly tinkering and making adjustments until the last possible second?
We practice the same routines, Short and Free, for the entire season, which is usually about 9 months. We are tinkering with choreography often, but generally, we are practicing the same routines for most of the year.
Ice dancing is such a collaborative effort. Tell me a little bit about your partnership with Madison. How do you two complement each other, both on and off the ice?
Madison and I have been skating together for 4 years, regarded as a short amount of time considering that successful partnerships in ice dance can last for more than a decade. Our personalities complement each other well – we both like to have fun on the ice while still working hard. We enjoy the process, that is to say everything that goes into our work, which I think is vital for long term success.
What events do you have upcoming?
Skate America was our first Grand Prix assignment and Cup of China is our second, coming up on November 6th. Our goal is to place well enough to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in December.
Considering recent results – a gold at the US championship and the Silver at the Worlds – it seems like you and Madison are thriving. Do you feel like you’re still learning and improving?
I think Madison and I are still improving, mostly because our partnership is still relatively young. Our long-term goal is to do well in the 2018 Olympics, but in the mean-time we have plenty to keep us focused, including the World Championships held in Boston this year.
What do you do around the area to relax and enjoy yourself?
I like to play guitar outside of the rink. I’ll also enjoy getting out on the golf course on a day off when the weather is nice. I try to cook at home as much as possible because I think it’s healthier and more economically viable, but some days when I come home from skating exhausted and don’t feel like cooking, I will break down and order take-out from a nearby restaurant.
Bates and Chock will compete in the LEXUS Cup of China, the third of six events in the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix series, November 6-8 in Shanghai, China. The event will be broadcast on NBC’s Universal Sports Network.